Cass shifted his gaze slowly from the laptop to Frankie and asked, "Are you accusing me of something, Mary Frances?"
"No," she said quickly. Too quickly. Her voice too high, her manner too deliberate. "I'm just asking you a question. Why were you researching the drug that killed Cecile a few weeks before her death?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
"Not to me," she lied.
"The drug that killed Cecile is the same one that she plied you with for years. She died from an allergic reaction to it. Obviously, it's dangerous. The FDA won't even let it into the country for clinical trials, because Europe is still turning up new side effects, and this is after over a decade of development. I wanted to know exactly what we were dealing with here. I wanted to know what the long-term repercussions of something like that might be. What I should be looking out for in case you...."
"But I'm okay, Cass," Frankie insisted. "I'm fine."
"For now. But think of radiation and Agent Orange and Thalidomide. All things that were presumed to be safe until, down the road..." He confessed, "I got scared, Frankie. All I could think was, what if that drug permanently damaged you in some way? What if, like the punch line to a sick joke, I just got you back only to lose you again? I couldn't live with the not knowing. I couldn't simply sit around, waiting for another bomb to go off. I'm a lawyer, remember? When the going gets tough, the tough research."
"And what did you find?" Frankie asked, as afraid to hear his answer now as she had been a few moments earlier to a completely different question.
"Good news. So far it seems that any lethal complications at least, are immediate. If you survive the first dosage..."
"So no bomb?"
"Why didn't you tell me you were looking into this?"
"I would have, if I'd anticipated my research making you suspect me of murder."
"I didn't! I I just was surprised, that's all. I didn't know what to think."
"I didn't want to worry you," Cass went on. "I just wanted to make sure that Cecile could never hurt us again."
"She can only do that if we let her. And I've been the biggest culprit in that regard. I've given her far too much power over me for far too long. I'm sorry, Cass. I'm sorry for shutting you out, and I'm sorry for letting her back into our lives, for letting her get to me."
"Does this mean you'll stop looking for whatever it was that led you to my laptop, and just let Cecile go? Don't you see, Frankie?" Cass appealed when he felt her continuing to hesitate. "By obsessing over her death, you're actually keeping her alive. By entertaining these suspicions about her murder, you're helping Cecile drive us apart." Cass's next words sent a shudder through Frankie, not only because they were so eerily reminiscent of the ones Cecile had cackled in her dreams, but also due to the desperate intensity with which Cass said them. "You're letting Cecile win."
Allie gaped at the infant Gregory was holding out to her. She wondered whose baby that was. Because it certainly wasn't hers. All these months, when she'd surfaced from her otherwise comfortable pool of denial to dare imagine what her and GQ's child might look like, she'd never, even in her wildest, most hopeful, most fanciful dreams envisaged a newborn with eyes as blue as hers... and skin as white as the sheet he lay wrapped in.
Instinctively, Allie looked at Gregory, searching wordlessly for an explanation, but he appeared just as perplexed as she was.
Jen, who'd been propping Allie up during the delivery, carefully extricated herself, helping Allie lean back against the headboard. She stood up and, indicating the baby, told Allie, "I'll go let GQ know."
They both understood precisely what she meant by that.
Allie, too exhausted and too stunned to speak, merely nodded her head in thanks.
Jen opened the door and, in that moment, a team of paramedics swept in, pulling a gurney behind them. Gregory leapt up, the relief flooding his face suddenly reminding everyone just how much pressure he'd been under for the past several hours, and how good of a job he'd done never letting anyone see his own terror.
He handed off the baby to one the medics, while telling the other, "I was cutting the cord, and so I didn't see when the placenta came out. I don't know if I got all of it. She's still bleeding. I wasn't sure how much was normal."
"It's alright, son." The older one patted Gregory on the back reassuringly. "You did a good job. A damn good job." He looked over his shoulder at Steven, hovering by the doorway. He was drenched from head to toe, wrapped in a silver warming blanket, his lips blue, shivering frantically. "You, too. All you kids, you did real good."
Steven glanced at Allie's newborn. And then, half-turning, he told GQ, "Dude. This isn't your baby."
Holding Jen's hand for support, GQ poked his head in. He studied the infant for a good, long time. And then, to both Allie and Gregory, he said, "I'm sorry. I should have believed you."
Sarah moved aside to let the paramedics examine Allie, crossing the room and hugging Steven tightly. "I'm so glad you're okay. I was really worried."
Her arms still wrapped around Steven's neck, Sarah looked nervously at Allie, wondering if, in light of what she'd told her earlier.... But Allie had more important things on her mind.
She indicated Gregory's cell-phone and, pointing towards Hudson Lewis Bauer, suggested, "Take a picture. And send it to his parents."
"Will do." Gregory pointed and clicked.
As soon as Lorna realized that Jamie was gone as in really, really gone; As in left me alone with Carl gone she bolted through the halls, her concern over what the hell had been done with Jamie momentarily overriding all other deeply ingrained fears.
"Where is he?" Lorna burst into Carl's private dining room, bowling her words along the slippery surface of a table built to seat twenty, but now merely hosting Carl at its head. "What did you do to Jamie?"
"Not a bloody thing." Carl poured a portion of tea from the silver samovar beside him and offered the china cup and saucer to Lorna. "Your Dr. Frame departed earlier this morning, before sun-up it was, if I'm not mistaken. I rather generously loaned him a means of transportation. He was in quite a hurry. Feel free to peruse the security footage if you don't believe me. He left quite of his own volition."
"Why would he do that? He knows how I..." Carl looked up at Lorna, most interested to hear what might come out of her mouth next. She deliberately dropped the subject to reiterate, "What did you say that would make him do that?"
"The truth," Carl replied. "That's what you came barreling in for, wasn't it? The truth? I told Jamie the truth. I told him that the person you both drove all the way out here to cross-examine me about was, ironically enough, actually located right in your own backyard. I told Jamie that if he wished to know more about Cecile's murder, he'd best consult with none other than Lucas."
"You lying piece of " Lorna grabbed the back of a chair to keep herself from leaping across the table and clawing Carl's haughty face off. "My father may have made the mistake of allying himself with you in the past..."
"Like Daddy like daughter," Carl chirped, dabbing his lips with a cloth napkin.
"How did you do it?" After a night of trying to figure it out for himself, Spencer finally broke down and asked Alice, "How did you put up with Rachel and her confrontational, accusatory intrusions for all those years?"
Alice sighed, "Not very well, I'm afraid. I took much too much to heart, for much too much too long."
"I don't see how that can be avoided. Rachel goes right for the jugular, doesn't she?"
"You didn't actually pay any attention to what she said, did you? You had nothing to do with Jamie's disappearance, we both know that."
"It isn't," Spencer hesitated. "It wasn't that. It's what she said about my dragging you down to my level."
"You didn't drag. I asked."
"Because I offered."
"I think I'm old enough to know my own mind, Spencer. I understood exactly what I was doing when I told you to go ahead and use your connections to help Jamie. Despite what Rachel may have claimed, I stopped being innocent and naive and, most importantly, gullible, a very long time ago."
"I wonder," Spencer mused. "What it might have been like for me to meet you then?"
"You would have found me as insipid as Rachel did."
"Steve Frame didn't."
"That's open to interpretation."
Spencer couldn't believe what he was hearing. She'd never spoken to him in this way before. "Your love story is legendary in this town! He worshipped you!"
"But he had a son with Rachel. And Rachel was whom he wanted in the end. What did she call me last night? The purest of the pure? The vestal virgin of Bay City? Maybe if I'd been a little less... prim, and a little more... human, my life would have turned out differently?"
"You sound almost ashamed of being decent," Spencer said slowly, thinking that he must be misunderstanding what she'd said.
"Living in Bay City can do that to a person. Decency isn't exactly prized. Or rewarded."
Spencer studied her for a moment. And then he asked, "Is that where I come in?" His fear was confirmed when Alice didn't immediately deny, or even act mystified by his question. He sighed, "That is where I come in. You're with me because you want me to drag you down. You want to see what it's like here in the muck. You want to experience what you've been missing. I'm sorry, Alice," Spencer said. "But that is absolutely unacceptable."
At the hospital, both Allie and her newborn were checked out and pronounced perfectly healthy. The infant was moved into the nursery, while Allie got a private room. Though she doubted it would stay private for long. Amanda had already called to say that she was on her way over.
Gregory volunteered to stay and keep her company until then, but all Allie cared about was, "How come you're not asking me?"
"About the baby. Anybody else would have wanted to know if I was sleeping around."
"I'm not anybody else," Gregory reminded.
"How did it happen?" Allie wondered. "That's not how it's supposed to happen."
"Genetics is weird. Recessive genes pop up when you least expect them. You never know what you're going to get. There probably isn't a single African-American person alive who doesn't have some mixed ancestry. The way slavery worked, it was almost impossible. GQ's got to have some blue eyes somewhere back in the family."
"You're saying my baby has some slave owner's blue eyes?"
"I guess it's not very politically correct of me to be happy about it."
Gregory shrugged. "I think GQ is relieved, too. This whole situation was a mess. Now it's over. He didn't want to deal with it anymore than you did, really."
"Did you send the photo to Rick and Mindy?
"Yeah. I think they've both texted me twenty times since then. Mindy said they're driving down right now."
"Good," she bobbed her head several times to illustrate the point.
"Are you still sure about this, Allie?" Gregory asked. "I mean, now that GQ is kind of out of the picture, you don't have to..."
"I'm more sure than ever. I think this is a sign that I'm doing the right thing. Now Rick and Mindy can adopt him with no problems."
"I told you that you could keep him. We could raise him."
"And I told you that I don't want that. For him, for me, or for you."
A knock on the door provoked Allie into a pre-emptive eye roll in anticipation of Amanda. But it was only John, poking his head in to ask, "Am I interrupting anything?"
"Gregory and I were just talking about Hudson's parents coming to pick him up."
"Hudson?" John asked, unsure of how to respond.
"After Gregory," Allie said. Then, unable to decipher John's reaction, tentatively followed up, "Is that okay with you? I guess it's your name, too. I didn't think about that."
John struggled to remain positive when positive was pretty much the last thing he felt about this entire situation. "It was my mother's maiden name. Michael and I both actually changed it from our father's name, Garrison. I like the idea of it continuing. Even in this way." He turned to Gregory. "I heard about what happened at the cabin."
"Gregory was amazing," Allie gushed.
He blushed. "I'm not the one who had the baby."
"You might as well have been. I wouldn't have had any clue what to do without you."
John told Gregory, "You know, I delivered you, too. And not in a hospital, either. In an abandoned building. Guess it's a family tradition. I don't even have the words to express how proud I am of you. I just wish... I wish..."
"Don't, Dad. Please."
John nodded and, without another word, hugged his son tightly, then hurried out of the room before he broke down completely.
"What's this all about?" Lucas slipped into the passenger seat of the car Jamie had parked around the corner from Felicia's house. He'd called Lucas a few minutes earlier and demanded to see him immediately. Alone.
Jamie got right to the point. "Lorna took me on a little field-trip last night. To see Carl."
"Carl? Last night? Lorna? What are you talking about? Why would she..." And then the pieces clicked for him. "Oh, Jesus Christ. You're Mr. Tall, Dark and Complicated."
"What?" Jamie, who'd finally felt as if he understood everything going on around him, floundered yet again.
"Damn it. Damn it, Lorna," Lucas addressed the air in lieu of his daughter. "Complicated is the least of it. How could you do this to her, Jamie? You know all about her history with Carl. How could you drag her into "
"I didn't drag Lorna anywhere. In case you haven't noticed, your daughter is not exactly dragable. I tried to talk her out of it. That's not very easy to do either. She's the one who insisted we go talk to Carl, because she was sure he'd know the name of the guy who set up Cecile's murder scene to look like a strangulation instead of a poisoning."
Lucas didn't say anything. His face remained perfectly neutral.
Jamie went on, "You know his name, too, don't you?"
Again, no response. Finally, Lucas asked Jamie, admitting to nothing, "How did Lorna react to what Carl told you?"
"She didn't. Carl didn't tell Lorna anything. He only told me. And I hightailed it back here to run it by you. Otherwise I'd qualify for Fool of the Millennium if I took Carl at his word on anything."
"You have no proof," Lucas said.
"How?" Jamie gave up the pretense that he needed any. "I mean, yes, you worked for Carl once upon a time. But, art theft and fencing stolen goods and laundering money, that's a far cry from murder."
"No!" Lucas held up one finger in warning. "I never... It wasn't like that. It was... it... believe it or not, it started as a natural outgrowth of my Public Relations firm. Cleaning up after a client was in my job description. And if that required staging a scene or two to keep the heat off, well, that's what they hired The Lucas Agency for."
"Both Carl and Lorna called you an artist."
"I did what I had to. But I always came in after the fact. I never committed the actual crimes."
"So who killed Cecile then?" Jamie wanted to know. "Carl?"
"Are you kidding? Carl doesn't do his own clean-up, you think he'd make his own mess?" Lucas dismissed, "It was some hired flunky. You'll never find him in a million years."
"How could you align yourself with Carl again?"
"Jenna," was all Lucas said in response.
"So Cecile was besides the point? This was all about framing Donna, nothing else?"
Lucas shrugged. "Carl picked Cecile because he figured the potential culprits list would be a mile long. He didn't know about you, but he gathered that she'd pissed off enough people in Bay City and elsewhere to make the two of us the last men anyone would suspect. He also knew that Cecile had blackmailed Donna before, something about Sally Frame and Donna's brother, Peter. So it would stand to reason she'd try it again. All we had to do was plant the file and wait for the police to find it."
"What about the vial with my fingerprints on it?"
"I swear to God, I had no idea about that. I bought the drug from an old source down on Gold Street. I dropped it on Donna's property when I stole the scarf."
"Hell of a coincidence, wouldn't you say?"
"I'm being straight with you, Jamie."
"I doubt it," he smirked, but dropped the issue.
"I heard you jumped bail," Lucas said.
"Your daughter can be very persuasive."
"So what's next? Are you just going to keep on running?"
"What are you doing back here?" Donna exclaimed in surprise. "I thought for sure you'd be too busy admiring your new grandson!"
"You heard," John observed.
"Oh, it's the talk of the hospital. Gregory was quite the hero, I understand. You must be so proud."
"All the kids pitched in. Steven came close to catching pneumonia, hiking through the freezing rain like that. You can well be proud of him, too."
"Steven inherited his mother's sense of family loyalty. You remember how Victoria was. She would do anything for the people she loved. Like when she pretended to be Marley in court. Or the time she offered to be a surrogate for her. Even when we didn't appreciate her gestures, Victoria just kept on following her heart."
"How do you do it, Donna?" John wondered. "How do you bury your child, and still get up in the morning and go through the motions of your life as if nothing's happened?"
"You don't," Donna said, surprised that he would even think such a thing. "You never do anything in the same way again. It does help to have something else to focus on. Like with Michele and Bridget. Suddenly getting a pair of toddlers to raise certainly distracted me. It's similar to how, after you thought Sharlene had died, you might very well have curled up and died right along with her, if you didn't have Gregory to take care of."
Donna went on, "And now look at our Gregory, a father himself! Allie is a very lucky girl to have him. I know a little something about delivering a baby in less than ideal circumstances."
"These circumstances," John agreed. "Are definitely less than ideal."
"She's still determined to give him up for adoption?"
"And what does Gregory think?"
"He's willing to go along with whatever she wants."
"Well, of course he is, you raised a gentleman." Donna hesitated. "You know, John, this doesn't necessarily have to be a bad situation. If Allie and Gregory really feel that they can't raise a baby properly at this time, placing him in a good, loving home is the kindest thing they can do for him."
"Is that how you felt about giving Jenna away?"
"It's what I told myself I felt," Donna admitted.
"You're ducking again," John accused. "Just like last night, when I asked about you and I, forty years ago. You said something that made it sound like you were answering the question, without actually answering it at all."
"I must be losing my touch," Donna mused. "I used to be able to do it so nobody noticed."
"We all noticed," he broke it to her brusquely. "We just didn't have the strength or, frankly, the time to arm-wrestle over every single sentence that came out your mouth."
"I don't believe you," Donna challenged. "You're just saying that. If everyone knew... why didn't anybody say something?"
"We did. You just declined to listen."
"That's not true!"
"Okay, Donna," John conceded. Then, after a moment, waved one hand from her to him and asked, "You see how I did that? I let you have your way. Not because you were right, and not because I didn't realize that you were pitching a fit to avoid the topic at hand, but because I've learned, over the years, the futility of trying to pry a genuine thought or emotion out of you."
"Are you implying that I'm disingenuous?"
"Implying? Not at all. I'm flat out stating."
"Well, I don't appreciate it."
"I don't care," John told her. "I've had it, Donna. I've really had it. Difficult as it may be to believe, there are currently more pressing issues in my life than indulging your every whim. I stopped by, yesterday and today, because you clearly need serious help, and I thought I might be able to offer it. But if you don't intend to meet me halfway hell, at this point, one percent of the way would be a marked improvement then I am out of here. This ditzy, damsel in distress routine may work on Matt. It may even work on your doctors. But I know it for what it really is. A routine. A show that you put on when you're terrified. You use it to drive people away. Well, congratulations. You've almost succeeded with me. I'm not Matt. I don't have my self-esteem tied up in proving that I can put up with your crap no matter what. I want to help you. For Michael's sake, for old times' sake, if nothing else. But I am in no mood to play games. Been there. Done that. Not interested in a rematch. Do you or do you not want to get better, Donna? Do you or do you not want to get out of here? Decide now. Because if you let me walk out that door. I assure you, I am not coming back.
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